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Jul 29th, 2006, 06:31 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 161


Two days drive 1,300 kilometers.


In spite of the difficulty we had getting cash, the trip from Joberg to Third Bridge was not at all a hard or uncomfortable adventure. We just had to do a few extra chores.

Because of my lazy retention skills and zero 4x4 driving experience, we got buried in the sand, and began our first camping trip since we were children, well after sunset.

When we finally arrived at Third Bridge, we cooked a full meal and late into the night tried to figure out all the camping equipment. We ate and drank our beers, our first real night camping in Botswana, but before we could clean up, the roar of the lions started, and as the approaching lions came closer, we quickly left the dishes on the table and franticly scurried up the ladder to our tent, then desperately fumbled to zip up the flaps.

After the terror and the fear subsided, we quickly wanted more and thoughts about unzipping the flap of the tent came into our minds, but the roars were so loud, so close, we were convinced the Lions were in camp, just outside our tent. And they were.

Then and there, at that moment, during our first night Moremi, we decided we were coming back to Botswana the following year.


We left Johannesburg around noon making it into Botswana at sunset and camped across the border at Mafuta, Kwa Nokeng Lodge.

On route to Mafuta, we were stopped by a police officer, perhaps looking for money, but after I cried, “I can’t believe this is happening, our first day in South Africa and we are being extorted”, the officer took another path of conversation and instead, gave us directions to Martins Drift.

Serendipity strikes again in our favor. It was fortunate for us that we were stopped, as we certainly would have missed the crucial Potgietersrus / Mokopane exit.

The above reminds me of a TV show we saw in South Africa. The episode had a South African cop stopping drivers and pretending to tear up their driver’s licenses claiming the licenses were fraudulent. The guys they stopped would get so angry - at least the ones they showed on TV - they would storm out of their cars and begin to beat on the officers.

The guy who was playing the cop, got so tired of being beat on, that the TV crew set up a special demonstration.

After stopping a driver, the TV crew would stage a car speeding and failing to stop on the officer’s order. The police would then take out a shotgun and shoot out the back window of the car as it sped away. The ideal was to soften up the people they had stopped and perhaps, make them a bit less reluctant to beat on them after they tore up their licenses.

And it worked. After one guy was softened up a bit, the police told him there was a major problem with fake drivers licenses, therefore, the only true form of identification was a Polaroid photo of his private parts. The man was instructed to go into a nearby tent and have photos of his privates taken. He did. Crazy stuff you’ll find on TV.


Mafuta, Kwa Nokeng Lodge is a proper organized place just on the other side of the Martins Drift/Groblersbrug border post. If you follow the road behind the petrol station, it's on the Limpopo River. Signs are posted everywhere.

We ate at their buffet dinner and were introduce to Bots beer at the bar, then promptly forgot much of our tent erecting lessons, but our friendly camping neighbors were quick to help.

We did not hear any wild drumming at Martins Drift – we were told that there might be some - but another night, at Robbins Camp in Zimbabwe, we listened to what we thought was a wild drinking party going on in the workers camp, it turned out to be a church group meeting. The boom, boom, boom and singing never bothered us, but it did sound like they were having the same amount of fun as bunch of drunks.

In the states, a buffet dinner sort of means eat all you can stuff in, but at two places we visited in Botswana, portions were dolled out sparingly and seconds were frowned upon and thirds were unheard of. We surmised the buffet was not only prepared to feed us, because we saw a good amount of food go back into the kitchen.

After scurrying about for gas, maps and cash, we left Martins Drift/Mafuta Lodge later than we wanted – 09.00, and began the 730 km journey to Maun via Orapa.

We passed few cars on the road and discovered that large sections of the road were under construction.

Sand devils regularly blew up over the broad dusty landscape and we often stopped to take photos and partake in a village chat.


We spent the night about two hours outside of Maun at the fancy tented Safari Lodge, Leroo-La Tau. The lodge was located on the dried up Boteti River at the edge of Makgadikgadi Park.

We asked to set up at camp, but be allowed to eat dinner at the lodge. That was a huge, no. You see, the people paying big money for the tents do not want to mix with the campers, and boy, did we find out that was true.

The lodge manager had a kind heart. He told us, since we did not have any food, it would be ok to camp, but still eat at the buffet dinner. Quite friendly of him to break the golden rule.

We decided to sleep in the tents anyway - because they looked so cool.

Later, when the tent people went on safari – we opted not to go along, the lowly campers were allowed to come into wonderland and hang out at the lodge’s viewing area that was located over the dried up Boteti River.

There, high up and a bit far away, we could view a large herd of zebra and some elephants that came around for a drink at the pumped in watering hole.

The next day, before we left for Maun, we took photographs of the abundant lion paws that littered the area around the swimming pool – thirsty lions. We listened to lions roaring all night, but never imagined they were so close.


In Maun, after filling up the camper with petrol – 150 liters, we tried to pay with our credit card and it would not go through. The petrol station people were friendly and calm but, after three phones calls to our credit card company in the states – collect calls, it was decided would all take a drive to Choppers grocery store and get cash from our credit card. Choppers would have preferred that we made some type of purchase before handing us 500 Pula, but gave us the money anyway, with smiles.

It was not the first time store cashiers in Botswana were quick to refund money or give us cash from our credit card. And thankfully so, because our own cash station cards did not work and we ended up paying the park fees with a mix of euros, dollars, rand and pula.

Paying with such an eclectic mix of money really beat us up on the exchange rates and cash advance fees. But, other than waiting in a bank line, running around a bit more than we would have liked and a the unwelcome depletion of our bank account, the experience produced no additional hardships or pain.

After shopping in Maun, we made it to the Moremi Wildlife Reserve entrance at South Gate with minutes to spare before the park closed, checked in and headed off for the Third Bridge campsite.


The trip to Third Bridge was quite uneventful until we came up on two Land Rovers that were changing a flat tyre a few kilometers outside of camp. We stopped to help, I mean, we stopped and got out to help.

Many people’s idea of offering to help means simply hanging out the window and asking, “Hey, you need help?” We believe you have to make an effort to show you are definitely there to help and if the people say, “No”. You hang around a bit longer to be sure, just in case they change their mind.

Well, that effort was quickly rewarded, because, just a bit up the road we got stuck in the sand. Yes, stuck very, very deeply. I did not follow any of the 4x4 driving instructions I had been given, did not lock the differential, nor have it in a low gear. I just spun the wheels until we were buried deeply into the sand.

The people that were in the two Landys, quickly stopped and took out their sand ladders and a high lift jack. I tried to dig as much as I could, but eventually I had to give up and let others step in to help.

We were digging in total darkness and having great difficulty trying to get the camper unstuck. Many campers drove down the same trail, but when they came upon us and saw what was going on, they turned off well ahead of the action, never slowing down. Ouch!

Eventually, we had to take everything out of the camper, including the refrigerator and the firewood stacked on top. Finally, the 4x4 was pulled out of the sand.

We said our thanks and goodbyes and gratefully gave our saviors all the wine we had stored – they had only asked for a roll of toilet paper. Then, tired, dirty and a bit shell shocked, we all drove off into the total darkness and never met up with our 4x4 helpers again.

The next day we went back to the spot where we had been stuck and discovered a safari truck, loaded with tourist, sunk deeply in the sand.

I did not feel exonerated, because serious driving mistakes were made. I will never know, had I driven the 4x4 correctly, if I would have avoided getting stuck.

But, a lessoned was learned that day. And from that time forward, I always drove “on my toes” and the rest of the trip went on uneventfully, at least the driving part.


Coincidently, at Third Bridge, Kawai and Xakanaxa campgrounds, we met up with the same people that helped us during our first night camping at the border. Their equipment included a large solar panel that supported an electrical system powering hot showers with brass fittings and more exotic toys.

Funny thing though, at Third Bridge, our friendly tent helpers camped under a huge tree and left their food outside their camper. During the night, all hell was breaking loose at their camp. Because of our inexperience; we did not figure out that the desperate screeching sounds we heard throughout the evening were Baboons.

The next morning, our camping neighbors explained that they were fighting the Baboons for hours, while the Baboons continuingly went number 1 and number 2 on their tents.

Did our buddies learn their lesson? No.

During the day, when our camping friends went on Safari, we noticed the Baboons were tearing up their camp. When we investigated, we saw that the campers had again left much of their food and equipment outside their camper. We used a tarp to drag their stuff into the woman’s loo and went back to find a Baboon sitting on the cooking table, dipping a large spoon into a simmering pot of stew and licking it. Yes, they had left a pot of stew out in the open.

Too much of a story to pass up, we grabbed the video and started shooting. My wife was having little luck using a stick to fend off Baboons that were large enough to come up to her chest. The Baboons simply refused to obey and that stubborn guy, sitting on the cooking table, licking a spoon, would not put the spoon down and continued to eat.

When the campers returned, they were happy to get a copy of the video.

28 days later, we were back in Joberg.

scubatv is offline  
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Jul 29th, 2006, 06:57 PM
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I'm loving your report, and your attitude. Looking forward to the next installment.

cw is offline  
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Jul 29th, 2006, 08:08 PM
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What a great trip! I would love to hear more about it. What experiences you had!
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Jul 29th, 2006, 11:21 PM
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Great writting. Great story. I envy your talent to write like that. More if you please.
regards - tom
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Dec 15th, 2011, 06:32 AM
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Nice trip report. I am so looking forward. Doing a Botswana Trip Next year March.
AfricaTravelgirl is offline  
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Dec 15th, 2011, 07:06 AM
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Thanks for sharing your trials and tribulations.
Interesting to read about your experience with Bobbies, buffets, and baboons. I can envision the spoon-licking baboon.
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Dec 15th, 2011, 08:00 PM
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This report is over 5 years old!!
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